Action Adventure

Review: ‘Bad Boys: Ride or Die’ is a Less-than-Arresting Sequel that Makes a Strong Case for Why the Action Franchise’s Badge Should be Revoked

June 4, 2024Ben MK

A fan favorite that holds the distinction of being Michael Bay's first feature film, 1995's Bad Boys not only reinvigorated the buddy-cop action genre, but also helped launch the movie careers of Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. Fast forward 25 years and a 17-year hiatus, and Smith and Lawrence were back for 2020's Bad Boys for Life, a sequel that proved audiences were still game for the pair's fun on-screen chemistry and the franchise's in-your-face machismo. Now, as the series approaches its 30-year anniversary, they're back again with Bad Boys: Ride or Die. But does this fourth entry do justice to the name — or is it time for these two old-school Miami cops to holster their weapons for good?

Set not long after the events of the previous film, Ride or Die finds detectives Mike Lowrey (Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Lawrence) about to hit another life-changing milestone in their three-decade-long partnership: Mike's marriage to his girlfriend and physical therapist, Christine (Melanie Liburd). However, when the celebration is cut short by Marcus suffering a heart attack on the dance floor at the wedding reception, it sees a worried Mike staying by Marcus' hospital bedside, just as Marcus did for Mike when he was nearly fatally shot by his illegitimate son, Armando (Jacob Scipio). It's a somber turn of events that would put things in stark perspective for anyone in that same situation. But whereas Mike's near-death experience sent him on a journey of revenge, Marcus' brush with eternity has a more optimistic outcome. Feeling invincible, Marcus emerges from intensive care ready to make the most of his second lease on life. The crooked U.S. law enforcement agents in league with the ruthless Mexican drug cartels, on the other hand, have a much different and more disturbing plan in mind.

Led by a former U.S. soldier named McGrath (Eric Dane), these corrupt agents will stop at nothing to tie up any loose ends that could lead to their betrayal being uncovered. What they don't realize, though, is that when they decided to frame Mike and Marcus' late boss, Police Captain Conrad Howard (Joe Pantoliano), and make him the fall guy for their crimes, they would also incur the wrath of Miami's finest. Hellbent on clearing Captain Howard's name, Mike and Marcus enlist the help of an incarcerated Armando, the only person capable of identifying McGrath, who also happens to be on the hit list of Captain Conrad's U.S. Marshall daughter, Judy (Rhea Seehorn). However, when their quest goes sideways, leaving Mike, Marcus and Armando on the run as fugitives from the law, they'll have to race against time to bring down McGrath — before he and his team of highly-trained mercenaries have a chance to get to their families and make this already dangerous, high-stakes mission even more personal.

Written by Chris Bremner and Will Beall and once again directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, who helmed the last Bad Boys outing, the result is a spectacle-fuelled adventure that struggles to recapture the energy and tone of the previous movies, while also making a few questionable choices along the way. Whether it's the near-constant product placement for Doritos and Skittles, a Michael Bay cameo that seems to make no sense considering his appearance in the last film, or the jarring recasting of Marcus' wife, Theresa (Tasha Smith), there's a fair number of head-scratching moments that will leave Bad Boys fans wondering just what has happened to their favorite, action-packed franchise. Still, in spite of its shortcomings, there are a few redeeming qualities about this latest follow-up, such as the return of Reggie (Dennis Greene), Marcus' son-in-law and a dark horse of a character who delivers some of the movie's most crowd-pleasing, laugh-out-loud scenes.

It all adds up to a hit-and-miss sequel that pales in comparison to the original. Nonetheless, moviegoers in the mood for a check-your-brain-at-the-door type of action blockbuster experience will no doubt get their fill here, thanks to Smith and Lawrence's always-reliable rapport and El Arbi and Fallah's commitment to replicating Bay's visual flare. Suffice to say, Bad Boys: Ride or Die isn't a total wash. It does make an excellent case, however, for why the series should be retired, rather than having its badge renewed for further installments.

Bad Boys: Ride or Die releases June 7th, 2024 from Sony Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of R for strong violence, language throughout and some sexual references. Its runtime is 1 hr. 55 min.

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